The Good, The Bad, and the Ninty


12/11/16

Chetumal, Mexico to Hopkins, Belize

274.9 Kilometers ridden.

I slept in too late again this morning and then fucked about getting stuff done in the morning.  I managed to take my meds without eating anything and it seemed to turn my stomach now that I have begun taking the mild anti-biotics I was prescribed as anti-malarial tablets.  I didn’t really get checked out of the hotel until about noon and then once I had the bike loaded I only went a few hundred meters up the road to stop at an Oxxo for a yogurt, a zero calorie Mexican energy drink, and a ham and cheese croissant out of the deli case.  Not gourmet but enough to calm my stomach within about 20 minutes of finishing and getting on the road.

The ride to the boarder with Belize was simple enough, though I found I hadn’t managed to add the Central American maps to my GPS yet so I was left with my phone as my only navigational aid.

Loading the maps makes a GPS more useful..

The boarder itself wasn’t too bad as I tried to pull into the first building and was told I was in the wrong place and waived forward. I went to the small building where they tried to charge me the exit cost of my Visa even though it had already been paid as part of my ticket with Champs.  I told the woman as much and she just argued that I had to pay it anyway.  I just turned the bike off and stayed there working out how to show it to her on the phone and she just kept insisting.  Thankfully 7 or 8 cars backed up behind me and started to get impatient with a horn honk or two and she got frustrated with her gambit and just stamped me out and sent me on my way. I got some help from an immigration official as to where to go to get my import tax returned on the motorcycle.  The return itself was pretty simple and really wasn’t any trouble at all,

After getting all my exit paperwork in order I followed the road into Belize.  There I was stopped by a man in a neon green vest and told to pull aside.  I had been warned about people trying to “help” you cross the border that were a sham so I figured he was one and asked some questions.  He seemed non-plused but told me where to go.  I followed his instructions and was shocked to be greeted in English at every place along the way.  It was a smooth enough process but then I had to pay a $15 Belize fee to the guy in the vest.  I felt pretty ripped off, but all the people in the chain of entry I spoke with after said it was legitimate and normal.  I purchased the necessary insurance for the bike for seven days and got to moving down the road.

I got routed a funny way through some rural dirt roads and got to kick the speed up a bit and really had a good time of it. The people were all very nice. The roads weren’t terrible, but had enough character to be fun. I was just happy to be in Belize, a country I had never really planned on being in to begin with.

I stopped for food at the right time

After a few hours on the road I decided to stop for some food as I saw yet another weather front moving across the sky towards me. I spun around and went into a roadside stand where I ordered the pork rib plate with rice and beans and potato salad.  The food was excellent and I grabbed a coke to go with it.  

My first meal in Belize wasn't just indicative of the local cuisine, it was the best meal I had in the country.

While I was eating I was answering questions from a bunch of local guys who had arrived and checked out the bike and were asking about the cameras.  About that time I heard the approaching sound of a bigger thumper than the usual 125s and 250s I had become accustomed to and began to look about.  I saw a guy on a midsized dual sport with soft luggage and decent riding gear go by.  They weren’t one of the local riders based just on the kit. I lost sight of them for a moment and had to wonder if they were going to turn around or if I would just have to hope to catch up to them.

I was relieved to see the rider coming back and turning off his bike to walk in. I got up to great him and we started to chat as he sat down.  His name was Aaron Mitchell and he too was headed for Ushuaia as an end point but was planning to stop about halfway to Hopkins, my planned stop for the day, and stay at a cheap camp. We chatted a bit about our trips and where we had been before we deciding to push on together till the camp site.

He was on an early 2000s DRZ400S so he said he would be going a bit slower and it was okay to leave him.  I opted instead to reign in my right wrist and follow his pace.  We floated between 85 and 90 kph for the ride and it was really a spectacular view all around. 

When we got to where he thought the campsite was we stopped to check maps and times and realized that we were only about an hour and 15 minutes from the hostel in Hopkins and still had an hour and a half of daylight at a minimum.  Rather than pay $10 for a campsite he chose to push on to the Hostel with me since the price was so close.

We took the Coastal Highway, a term that was a more than a bit deceiving. It was neither on the coast, nor a highway.  It was more of a muddy two lane road crowned over jagged rocks about the size and general shapes of one and two liter soda bottles.  Sections were nice smooth hard-packed clay but they were just moments of freedom from the muck and rocks.  I was in heaven! While the road was only 70 or 80 kilometers, it was the best and most fun off-road I had done so far on the trip. I would race ahead at speeds of 70 or 80 kph and get the bike sliding and really moving along then slow when I lost sight of Aaron who wasn’t as comfortable as I am on dirt.


The ride left me smiling from ear to ear, even when scaring myself a bit. As I passed a pickup that was throwing large rocks back at me from its wheels, I found myself going a bit too fast as I approached a bridge with slopped abutments. The resultant short flight of the CB proved that even fully loaded the bike is capable of short distance low altitude flight.

The road went back to paved way too fast for my liking as I had just been getting into the groove of looking far ahead and letting my body respond rather than forcing it. I could tell Aaron was ready for the tarmac when we got there but since we still had a bit to go before we hit the hostel we headed out. 

Initially I turned us the wrong way for the hostel, but we only went a few hundred meters before I figured out my error and we got turned around and headed for Hopkins. The rest of the ride in was paved until just as we arrived and rode some potholed dirt street to the front of the place.
The Funky Dodo Backpackers Hostel was a collection of buildings enclosed in a fence looking like what I imagine a hippy would do if left with too much time at some of the camps occupied by soldiers in Iraq. Many of the walls were painted in multi-color murals of dodos.

Aaron and I checked into the double room so that we could lock our gear up easier and not have to worry about being in a 14 person dorm. It was a small room in one half of a cabin. The small room consisted of bunk beds mounted to the back wall, a few shelves behind the door, and just enough room for Aaron and I to set down our gear on either side of the room and leave space to walk down the middle.

As I finished changing and looked out the front door it was clear Aaron was chatting up the woman in the hammock right outside our cabin.  The hammocks were part of the hostel’s courtyard that was made up of five separate hammocks over a large sandy area that looked to be raked at least once a day by the not so Zen patterned markings throughout. Aaron was seated on the concrete that made the border of the courtyard closest to our cabin and as I exited she asked him if we all wanted to go for a drink. While I hadn’t been drinking much as of late I felt like a beer or two at the “Tree Top Bar”, really just the open air second story of the hostels office building, to relax after meeting a new friend and riding some fun off-road.

The bar was simple but comfortable and we opted for the bucket of beer special for $20 Belize dollars, or about $10 US.  It was six of the local Belkin beers.  Christine, the woman Aaron had been chatting up, was nowhere to be seen, but with ho on an injured foot we initially put that down to slower speeds. Aaron and I both opened a beer and just started to chat about riding, our trips, and nothing in particular.  After about half a beer and likely close to 15 minutes Aaron got up to go look for Christen and I went to the bar to ask for some cut lime to try and help the bitter beer out a bit.

After a bit Aaron came back with Christine in tow and she joined me on the couch while Aaron resumed his seat in the stool.  We all started to chat and talk about our respective histories.  It was the usual banter I have started to expect on this trip right up until Aaron talked about being a soldier in the British Army.  We talked for a bit about military service and came to find we had many things in common.  He had started out as an Infantryman and had spent deployed time in Iraq back in the day.  It was a bromance at first deployment story. 

One bucket of beer turned to two as the hours ticked by and then I finally spoke up about needing to eat something.  Christine was fine but Aaron decided to join me at the small food trailer that was parked in front of the hostel.  We both put in our orders and were standing around waiting for our food when a rider pulled up on a small red and white motorcycle. I began to look a little closer to see the list of countries on the bikes wind deflector and it was just starting to settle on whose bike it was when Arron spoke.

 “Ed?” was all Aaron had to postulate before it clicked.

My brain mashed it all together and realized it was in fact Ed March who was pulling up to the same small food stand in a little fishing village in Belize.

Aaron seemed all but in shock and I was just doing the mental math that three separate adventure riders would all come together here at the same time, and then the exponentially smaller chance that one of them would be Ed March with Ninty!

The answer to people who think they need a $20,000 motorcycle to travel the world

There was a bit of banter happening as Ed ordered food and we exchanged pleasantries.  He had come down from a hostel about a mile up the road looking for a chicken sandwich. The women in the trailer told him he would have to pick something else since she just ran out of chicken.  Of course it was my sandwich that had taken the last of the chicken. It would be the start of a few days of Ed ordering almost the same thing I did everywhere we ate. What can I say, he has good taste.

Once food arrived we went upstairs to the bar and rejoined Christine with Ed in tow.  The four of us sat around talking, laughing, and making the two buckets of beer become four until the bar closed at about 1 am.  It was amazing the conversations that spanned the table to the coalescing of ideas and thought between two Brits, a Canadian, and I.  Three of us motorcycle travelers and the fourth a wandering soul who fancied a chat.  

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